PRIORITY FIVE: Fuel Poverty LEAD PARTNER: 361 Energy
- Fuel poverty is a significant problem in especially in very rural areas of North and West Devon, and Torridge. The numbers of households in fuel poverty in the county are equivalent to national figures (11.1%), but this rises to 12.4% in Torridge.
- An estimated 30% of excess winter deaths are as a result of cold homes. Between 1 Jan and 31 March 2018, including a period of very cold weather, there were an additional 15,000 deaths in the UK.
- Cold housing can exacerbate conditions such as arthritis and rheumatism, chronic lung disease and asthma. It can weaken the body’s immune system and result in an increase in incidence of colds and flu.
- Children in households facing fuel poverty have poorer educational outcomes: are more likely to miss school through ill health, might struggle to find a quiet, warm space to study, and may be socially excluded through reluctance to invite friends home.
- There is growing evidence of the detrimental effect anxiety relating to fuel poverty can have on mental health and wellbeing, especially for young people.
- In the countryside there is a high proportion of older, detached houses (often larger properties lived in by retired people), often of solid wall and floor construction, which are harder to insulate and are in conservation areas, which can restrict alterations.
- Rural homes are more likely to be off mains gas relying on oil, electricity or bottled gas. The rural premium on living costs is c 10-20%, and energy is the largest element.
- There are high levels of private rented accommodation, as opposed to local authority or housing association property. Private renters are at the greatest risk of severe fuel poverty with lower average income than owner-occupiers, and less energy efficient homes than social housing tenants. Private tenants can be reluctant to raise issues with poor insulation or heating for fear of eviction or rent rises. The dispersed nature of these fuel-poor households means the problem is essentially hidden.
- High NHS cost burden. Poor housing costs the NHS £2.5 billion a year in treating people with illnesses directly linked to living in cold, damp and dangerous homes.